In the annals of sprinting history, few names shine as brightly as Usain Bolt, the legendary "Lightning Bolt" who left an indelible mark on track and field. However, it wasn't always smooth sailing for Bolt. In the early stages of his career, he grappled with fierce competition and struggled to secure a spot on the podium. Surprisingly, despite his eventual title as the "fastest man alive" during the 2000s, he didn't make a significant mark on the 100-meter charts. In 2006, Americans dominated the 100-meter sprints more than any other nation, according to World Athletics statistics.
But Bolt's trajectory took a meteoric turn as he ascended to the pinnacle of sprinting, leaving a lasting legacy with his blistering finishes in the 100 and 200 meters. Over the years, many professional sprinters aimed to shatter Bolt's world records but fell short. Yet, a recent discussion on a podcast shed light on an intriguing aspect of Bolt's career – his American counterpart at the time.
The recent World Athletic Championships witnessed a new generation of track and field icons attempting to surpass Bolt's records, invoking nostalgia for the days when Bolt consistently outpaced his rivals. The conversation ignited on a Ready, Set, Go episode posted by @TidalLeague on Twitter, where the caption posed a thought-provoking question: "Do you think Xavier Carter could have been one of the greatest sprinters of all time?"
Carter's Troubled Path to Stardom
Iconic track and field coach Gary Evans, who had mentored the decorated American sprinter Xavier Carter since the age of 12, unequivocally declared, "Xavier was supposed to be the man to challenge Usain Bolt." Carter, known for his prowess in the 200 and 400 meters, faced hurdles during his prime years, including early departure from the NCAA athlete title due to issues off the track. Evans reflected, "If he didn't have those problems, I think his name would have gone down in history."
However, Carter's journey to athletic success was marred by setbacks. In 2007, during his peak season, he was involved in a physical altercation with a Jimmy John's employee. That same year, he suffered a debilitating knee injury, which took until the start of the 2008 season to fully recover from. On September 7, 2008, he faced legal troubles when he was apprehended for allegedly carrying a concealed handgun in Gainesville, Florida. Carter was charged with a third-degree felony but later agreed to the charges in court and was released. These consecutive roadblocks limited the sprinter's iconic status to a brief period at the top.
In 2006, Xavier Carter held the top spot in the World Athletics records for senior outdoor 200 meters men's sprint, clocking an impressive 19.63 seconds. In the Grand Prix in Lausanne, Switzerland, he ran the second-fastest 200-meter race in history, securing a bronze medal, while Bolt was not even in the picture. Carter also made waves in the 400 meters, running the second-fastest time in the world that year, outclassing a star-studded field. In the 100 meters, he tied for 17th place with a finishing time of 10.09 seconds, while Bolt was notably absent from the list.
While Usain Bolt ultimately claimed the 200-meter record with an astonishing 19.19 seconds, there were moments when Xavier Carter came tantalizingly close to the lightning-fast Bolt. The question lingers: Could Xavier Carter have been the rival Usain Bolt needed to push his limits and elevate the world of sprinting to even greater heights?